More than 1,300 miles north of his Miami roots, Steve Tarpin brings a tropical-fruit delicacy to a Big Apple audience.
story & photos by Bakery Boy
I’ve traveled through the Florida Keys many times and eaten more slices of key lime pie than I can count, but I never expected to find one of the best in, of all places, Brooklyn, New York.
When I stumbled upon Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies while visiting the nearby Valentino Pier, a small park in the Red Hook neighborhood with a terrific view of the Statue of Liberty, I took one bite of the creamy, pucker-sweet creation and knew there had to be a Floridian behind the story.
Pie-maker Steve Tarpin is a Miami native whose love of the Florida Keys began in childhood and grew stronger with each camping, canoeing, and fishing trip there. He started making key lime pies at home for family and friends out of frustration with the mediocre versions he found served in many restaurants. “It was one of those ‘If you want something done right, do it yourself’ situations,” he says, “and I always knew where I could grab a handful of key limes right off the tree.”
He moved to New York in the mid-1980s for what he thought would be six months, but the place grew on him and he stayed, working first as a carpenter. Laid up by a back injury and invited to a cookout, he brought a few homemade pies as his contribution to the festivities. Another party-goer happened to own a steakhouse restaurant, liked what he tasted, and contracted Steve to make three pies a week. Steve’s Authentic now produces thousands of pies a week and delivers them to dozens of restaurants, markets, and caterers all over the city, as well as to walk-ins who find his warehouse location.
Steve has settled in as a New Yorker but manages to continue a favorite South Florida pastime. “I have a fishing boat docked nearby so I can slip away when conditions look good. Yesterday I caught a 30-pound striped bass in New York Bay, and it felt just like being back home.”
SIGNATURE ITEMS Key lime pies in three sizes: 10-inch ($25), 8-inch ($15), and 4-inch tarts ($5). There’s also an innovation called a Swingle—a 4-inch key lime tart dipped in dark, semi-sweet, Belgian chocolate and frozen to a stick.
SECRET TO SUCCESS No secret, really, just use the best and freshest ingredients possible. The crusts are pure Graham cracker crumbs and sweet butter. The filling contains fresh sweetened and condensed milk obtained directly from a Wisconsin dairy; pasteurized egg yolks; and the juice of fresh-squeezed key limes (never concentrates) imported from Mexico.
LOVE THOSE LIMES Steve maintains a separate web site, keylime.com, devoted to all things key lime. There you can learn about the ping-pong-ball size greenish-yellow fruit and its many uses from culinary to cosmetic.
LOCATION 204 Van Dyke Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231—at Pier 41 in the historic Red Hook district with its fine view of the Statue of Liberty and the New York Harbor.
HOURS Unpredictable. This is mainly a wholesale operation, after all, though everything is available to front-door customers whenever the place is open. As a humorous sign on the door declares, “Hour contingent on highly imperative fishing schedule.” Apparently you can take the boy out of laid-back South Florida, but you can’t take the laid-back South Florida out of the boy.
INFO stevesauthentic.com or 718-858-5333
wow my cousin also just moved to red hook, brooklyn and he loves key lime pie! i’ll be sure to mention this to him!!! i look forward to hearing about more bakeries from this blog in the future
John Phillip Carroll’s book Pie, Pie, Pie: Easy Homemade Favorites offers recipes for traditional favorites plus new renditions for crispy crusts and luscious fillings. Alizeh Pie